Concord, NH - Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) is calling for direct funding from the federal government to smaller municipalities in a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Kuster and her colleagues are requesting that future COVID-19 response packages include stabilization funding specifically for localities with populations under 500,000 or for a new, lower population threshold for direct funding through the Coronavirus Relief Fund to localities. The call follows conversations and concerns raised by municipalities across New Hampshire that are facing increased costs and challenges in the response to the COVID-19 crisis. While the most recent coronavirus relief legislation, the CARES Act, includes a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, the legislation did not allow for localities with populations under 500,000 to receive stabilization funds directly.
“As Congress continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that communities in New Hampshire and across the nation receive critical stabilization funding, including our small and rural communities,” said Kuster. “I’ve heard from municipalities and county administrators from Keene to Lebanon, Nashua, and beyond who are taking incredible steps to protect their communities without certainty that the costs of their efforts will be reimbursed. The weight of this public health crisis falls heavily on the shoulders of our nation’s small localities, who require adequate resources and services in order to meet the challenge coronavirus has presented. I urge House leadership to consider the needs of our smaller communities as the nation combats COVID-19.”
“Smaller municipalities are suffering losses in revenue and at the same time are experiencing increased expenditures to protect our communities from the impacts of COVID-19. We appreciate Congresswoman Kuster’s continued long-standing efforts to provide assistance to municipalities in our state,” said Shaun Mulholland, Lebanon City Manager and Chair of the New Hampshire Municipal Association.
“At a time where there are so many unknowns with the coronavirus pandemic, I want to thank Congresswoman Kuster for hearing Cheshire County’s concerns regarding the financial impact that this will have on our county and communities. Her action through this letter to Speaker Pelosi allows this conversation to begin for the counties of New Hampshire to be heard. Cheshire County is grateful,” said Chris Coates, Cheshire County Administrator.
A section of the letter reads: “Like their larger neighbors, though, these smaller counties, cities, and towns have faced enormous costs while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. These costs include deploying timely public service announcements to keep Americans informed, rapidly activating emergency operations, readying employees for telework to keep services running, and more.”
The letter continues: “As you work to craft the next package to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you to include direct stabilization funding to localities with populations under 500,000, or to lower the threshold for direct funding through the Coronavirus Relief Fund.”
The text of the letter is below and the signed version can be found here.
Dear Speaker Pelosi:
We are grateful for your tireless work to address the needs of all Americans struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for your understanding of the tremendous burdens that have been borne by localities as they work to respond to this crisis and keep their populations safe.
However, we are concerned that the COVID-19 relief packages considered thus far have not provided direct funding to stabilize smaller counties, cities, and towns—specifically, those with populations under 500,000. As such, we urge you to include direct stabilization funding to such localities in the next COVID-19 response bill, or to lower the threshold for direct funding through the Coronavirus Relief Fund to localities with smaller populations.
Many of us represent districts containing no or few localities with populations above 500,000. Like their larger neighbors, though, these smaller counties, cities, and towns have faced enormous costs while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. These costs include deploying timely public service announcements to keep Americans informed, rapidly activating emergency operations, readying employees for telework to keep services running, and more. This work is essential to keeping our constituents safe and mitigating the spread of the coronavirus as effectively as possible.
We fear that, without targeted stabilization funding, smaller localities will be unable to continue providing these critical services to our constituents at the rate they are currently.
We applaud you for including a $200 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund as part of H.R. 6379, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act—$50 billion more than the Senate package provides. However, we are concerned that, in both the House and Senate bills, localities with populations under 500,000 cannot receive stabilization funds directly. As you work to craft the next package to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you to include direct stabilization funding to localities with populations under 500,000, or to lower the threshold for direct funding through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. There’s precedent for a lower threshold. Currently, localities with populations of at least 50,000 are eligible to receive funding through the Community Development Block Grant program. We believe this funding will allow smaller counties, cities and towns in our districts to continue the tremendous work they are doing to protect our constituents during this difficult time.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. We stand ready to work with you as we continue to provide much-needed relief for the American people.
[Members of Congress]